Alcohol use is a difficult paradox for physicians. You can use it safely, and it may improve health, but heavy alcohol results in catastrophic complications wreaking havoc on people’s lives. As you will see, the diseases that moderate alcohol use prevents are common in older adults, so that age group should take seriously the recommendations for a drink a night.
So how can alcohol be your friend?
1. First, know what a “standard” drink is. In the United States a drink is a 12 ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor.
2. Coronary Artery Disease: Prevention of coronary artery disease is the best argument for alcohol use. It is indisputable that light to moderate alcohol use decreases the risk of coronary artery disease by 40 to 70%.
3. Stroke: It is also well accepted that light to moderate intake of alcohol is associated with a lower risk of ischemic stroke.
4. Heart failure: Light to moderate use of alcohol is protective against the development of heart failure. Realize here that chronic heavy alcohol use causes alcoholic cardiomyopathy but moderate use is protective.
5. Type II Diabetes: Risk is decreased in people with moderate alcohol consumption
6. Evidence increasingly suggests that light to moderate drinking is protective against dementia.
7. Peripheral vascular disease: Again, light to moderate use of alcohol lowers your risk for developing peripheral vascular disease.
8. Death: Total mortality is lower for men who drink 1-2 drinks a night and women who drink 1 drink a night compared to no or minimal alcohol use.
- Dr. O
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